Guided Tour

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I’ve been off air for a while, and somehow I have landed myself an afternoon where I do not have a hundred things to do. I have made some yogurt, done some washing and done the couple of little fencing jobs I needed to do. Matt mowed the lawns yesterday, so I don’t need to do that, I have no coconut oil so I can’t make soap, no hard cheese culture so I can’t make cheese. I’ve got a freezer full of bread, the garden supply place is closed so I can’t build another garden. I literally have actual free time.

So it is probably time to walk you all through this fabulous place I now get to call home. The house itself is smaller than the old one, but much better laid out, and the two side-by-side double garages more than make up for any space the house may lack.

The setup of the house is basically open plan living and dining with the rest of it set up in a semicircle around the main lounge area. The grown-ups’ TV room and master bedroom are at one end, kitchen, laundry and main bathroom along the back and kids rooms at the other end. The kids have opted to sleep in one room and have the other as their play room. This gets around my ban on TVs in bedrooms and means they still have their own space to hang out in.

The boys on their new couch in the playroom.

The boys on their new couch in the playroom.

Outside is where things really get interesting, of course. The previous owners had left the entire 20 acres intact, with no internal fencing. They had created a 3-hole golf course among the park-like gardens.

golf course

I have mentioned before how private the property is. I really am awestruck by the amount of work that must have gone into creating the garden. From the house you can’t see the front gate, as you come in the driveway you go around a corner and the outside world disappears.

View from just inside the front gate.

View from just inside the front gate.

House and garage

House and garage

These next couple were taken from the front porch.

front yard 1 front yard 2

With a clean slate in regards to internal fencing, we kept things basic. Geoff Ross – The Hotwire Man did the fencing for us, with two strands of electric stand-off on the goat paddocks and heavy-duty chicken wire to keep the poultry away from the dogs. We basically cut the back 10 acres off into a big paddock for the does, put a couple of smaller paddocks down the western side for the bucks and put a yard around the machinery shed to make a farmyard. There is only one gate from the house yard to the animal areas, with the other paddocks all accessed via the farmyard. This means there is only one way in and out, only one weak point to manage, and only one gate to remember to close.

The farmyard.

The farmyard.

Six bays of machinery shed have been turned into a dairy, feed room, feeding pen and chook enclosure, with a couple of spare bays to become more goat pens down the track. A stand of flowering gums shades the shed in the afternoon.

paddock

A drain leads down the paddock to a dam, which is just behind the row of cypress trees. There are several stands of native trees and a wide variety of pasture and weed species to keep a herd of browsing goats occupied.

orchard

The orchard appears to have been mainly ornamental, but there are plum, apple, pear and cherry plum trees, as well as something that could be a nut tree of some sort. They have been let to grow way too big, and most have dropped nearly all of their fruit. Hopefully once they have had a fairly drastic prune in winter they will yield well next year. One of the pear trees has managed to hang onto its crop, as has the cherry plum, so we may yet get something useful this season.

Beside the farmyard is a forest of dill that has naturalised, there are dozens of huge plants. In one garden bed there is a great, rambling rosemary bush which came in handy for seasoning the roast lamb at Christmas.

Of course, all this garden with barely any existing food plants is not really my specialty. We brought the greenhouse from the old place, and it now forms the centre of the new vegetable garden. I have started on a mandala garden for annual edible plants, complete with integrated poultry system, aka the Silkiedome. The idea is that the Silkies will move around the circular garden, cleaning up and turning over harvested beds while eating the leftovers and adding fresh manure. The rectangular fixed garden beds beside the greenhouse will be used to grow self-seeding crops like silverbeet and longer-lasting plants like berries.

Epic Vegie Garden - a work in progress

Epic Vegie Garden – a work in progress

And lastly, this is the rose I brought along from the old house. The horse ate all the buds off when she was meant to be tidying the lawn before we moved. The unearthed and transported rose has just started to flower again beside the front door.

front door

There are so many little things that make this place great. The kitchen is amazing. The huge 900mm oven with gas cooktop allows me to bake four loaves of bread in one go. Not only do the trays fit, I can put two pizza trays in it side-by-side. There is an appliance cupboard for all my gadgets. And if the fridge hole was way too small for my awesome new fridge (which we bought about a fortnight before we bought the house, replacing my old fridge which died), it is the perfect size for the cheese fridge with the microwave on top. I spend so much time in the kitchen, so it needs to be practical and durable. This one certainly fits the bill, and looks good doing it.

The back deck adds roofline for collecting rainwater and also provides a great place for humans and dogs alike to hang out in summer. They put laserlite above all the windows along the deck, to let the light in while keeping the sun off, and there is a rainforest garden bed along the wall. The main water tanks are surrounded by a six-foot mesh fence, which makes a great yard to secure the dogs in when there is nobody home to keep an eye on them.

When we first inspected the place I noted the lack of cooling in the house. Between the blinds, the brick veneer, the verandah and deck and the excellent blinds on the windows, I don’t think we will need additional cooling. I guess we will put it to the test with these upcoming hot days.

The house came with four TVs mounted to the walls and a surround sound system in the second living room. So far two of the TVs have been taken down, we have given one of our existing TVs away and there are four of them in the garage. The kids have one in their play room and there is one in the grown-ups TV room. The master bedroom and main living area TVs have been removed.

The washing machine slot in the laundry was incompatible with our existing top-loader, so we now also have a brand new front loader. The laundry here is an actual room, with loads of storage, so things like the animal first aid supplies and my soap making equipment are stored in there. The milking gear now lives in the laundry instead of cluttering up the kitchen sink, the dog food, shoes and vacuum cleaner are kept out of sight, reducing the general clutter.

There are actual working fans and ceiling heaters in both bathrooms, and even a real bath.

Everything is so peaceful, there is plenty of space, the animals are happy and thriving. There are no rats in the shed (yet), no crows stealing eggs or flying off with baby goslings, no gorse, no car-swallowing potholes in the driveway. We have moved to a smaller house on a smaller block, spent a small fortune and ended up with something much greater, much more valuable. And after only a few weeks, it already feels like home.

Selling the Drama

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Congratulations to anyone who spotted the 90s alternative music reference in the title. If you did, you should go and listen the Throwing Copper, it is still a good album.

Anyway, lately my life has been full of drama. Depending upon your source, drama is either a situation representing some form of conflict or an overly emotional response to an event that should have an easy solution. I’ll let you make up your own mind.

A week ago I was feeling pretty low, so I decided to deactivate my Facebook page. I was sick of every status or comment I put up sounding like a complaint. I felt like I was fishing for sympathy, and nobody owes me sympathy. Everyone is dealing with their own crap. So I got out of there and took my complaining with me.

But let me tell you a little bit about the past couple of weeks. They have not been easy. Actually, the last month or so has been kind of a trial.

First there were the events surrounding the decision to sell the property and find somewhere else. In amongst all this was Matt’s surgery and subsequent long and painful recovery. At the same time I had three does kid, leading to many sleepless nights in the freezing barn and some rather tense moments pulling stuck kids. Then there was the huge task of getting the place cleaned up for sale, the hole in the roof fixed, the driveway made drivable and a whole lot of stuff going to the tip.

In the end, the driveway took 25 tonnes of gravel, which was dumped in 5 tonne lots and had to be moved by shovel and wheelbarrow. It was an enormous task, which mostly fell to Matt. His efforts were superhuman.

So finally the house was on the market. This led to the inevitable inspection appointments, the need to keep the place tidy and keep the dogs out of the way, the rounds of looking at properties for sale. Yes, selling up is stressful.

Then the house we really wanted sold, as did our second choice. If this place sells after today’s open house we will have nowhere to go. We are relying on the perfect property to pop up in the next month or so, with little more than the hope that the universe will provide it for us.

So that was all the house crap, that’s no big deal, people sell and buy every day. On top of that I have had a house full of sick people, starting with Rohan. He ended up having a week off school carrying a bucket around, although he didn’t actually vomit at any point. He has been dubbed ‘patient zero’, after managing to infect his brother, his auntie and his unofficial step-father. Callum was so sick that he didn’t feel like kicking the footy, but he managed to get to the Geelong-Hawthorn match as well as a birthday party last weekend with the help of dissolvable Children’s Panadol. Sarah and Matt have been sick for the best part of a week, and all I can do is hope that my ‘flu shot will keep me safe.

So things were already on the difficult side when, on Rohan’s birthday just before we were heading out for dinner, I found a gravely injured pony in my front paddock. This led to an emergency after-hours vet visit, two ponies being put down, and not surprisingly us being late to dinner.

The next morning I found my favourite Muscovy duck very badly injured but not having had the sense to die of her injuries. This was probably the most unsettling of a series of unpleasant events. Her injuries were horrific, beyond what I am willing to put into words, and on finding her still alive my only thought was to find a way to end her suffering. Matt to the rescue once again, dragged out of bed after a 12-hour night shift to dispatch my poor duck. The smell and sight stayed with for far too long.

My resilience ebbed badly after this, and I took myself off all social media. I was intensely disappointed at my inability to soldier on, and I had many cruel and unnecessary things to say to myself about the matter. Rock bottom hovered way too close for comfort, and things began to stack up. Two dead ponies, a dead billy goat and a dead duck made the planned butchering of our two sheep seem much more sinister. Sick goat kids and sick human kids felt like an epidemic. The stress of having the house for sale and looking for a new one kept me from sleeping.

Yet somehow this week things turned around. Nothing has really changed other than my way of looking at things and the understanding that I don’t have to let it all get to me. So on Friday when in the midst of trying to get the house and yard ready for Saturday’s open for inspection as well as getting one child off to the football and the other to his father’s house, I found myself dealing with a labouring goat and the realisation that my mobile phone had been cut off, somehow I coped. I called the phone provider and made a quick payment, after complaining that I got no warning of my service being blocked and explaining that I had in fact paid my partner’s bill instead of my own. I left Rohan watching the labouring goat, who kindly had healthy and very robust twins without any assistance. I got everyone to where they needed to go (once again with some help from Matt), and spent the evening making cheese and getting the house clean.

Do I create this drama? I don’t really see how I can. It certainly makes me appreciate the quiet times when I can sit down with nachos and a cider and watch old episodes of Greys Anatomy, or just hang out in the farmyard with my goats for half an hour. And I need to remember to set aside this time for myself, to recharge and relax, so that when it feels like one blow after another I can stand up and absorb it, knowing that eventually, based on sheer weight of numbers, something will go my way.

Time To Move On

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Sometimes it is easier to ignore something you should do than to just do it.

Sometimes it is hard for the universe to get its point across without the ability to use actual words.

For a very long time I had been wrestling with the feeling that something in my life needed to be let go, that something fairly drastic needed to change. But I could not put a finger on it. It made me feel very unsettled and frustrated and stuck. I was in a loop of feeling bad that I just could not seem to get out of.

After some very crude, drastic and extreme actions and reactions, I have come to realise that it is time to move on. Time for Elcarim Farm to find a new home.

I have lived here for 12 and a half years. My children have known no other home. My elderly dogs and middle-aged cats have spent their entire lives here.

These walls have seen the rise and fall of two significant relationships. And more recently the rise of another.

I am no longer the person I was when I moved here. Everything about me has changed since then. The only thing anchoring me in the past is this house, this property. It has for a long time been MY house, my place where I would Do Everything Myself!

Except that now I don’t have to do everything myself. I have a supportive and respectful partner and two increasingly capable children. It is time for us to go somewhere better. Somewhere that is ours rather than just mine.

Callum asked me if our new place would still be Elcarim Farm. I told him that it certainly would, because Elcarim Farm is wherever I live with my animals and family.

I have a beautiful timber property name sign, with a picture of my special goat Victoria, ready to be hung at our new home.

So we are preparing this place for sale and looking around for properties that might suit. We want to upgrade. I want a nice, big kitchen with plenty of storage space for brewing, soap making, cheese making and a big enough oven to do my sourdough bake in one go. We need three bedrooms and somewhere for the kids to play, as well as somewhere for the adults to watch TV, since I refuse to allow televisions in bedrooms. I want bathrooms that make good use of space, and a master bedroom set away from the busy parts of the house so that Matt can sleep after night shift without the rest of us disturbing him. We need good fences and shedding for the goats and poultry, and plenty of space for the goats to graze and browse over. We need plenty of room for me to set up new gardens and plant fruit trees. The ducks need somewhere to wash and swim.

I want a house with character, not soul-less or sterile. With carpet in the bedrooms and hard floors in the dining area. I want a wood fire, but the option of heating at the flick of a switch. Solar power would be great, but a lack of it is not a cull trait. Definitely no internal brick archways. And I want to keep the kids in their school.

There is not much around at the moment. The agents we have spoken to have all complained that there are just not many properties available, but say that things will pick up in the next few months. Our own agent is keen to start actively marketing my place, but there are a few things finish off first. The hole in the roof where the old wood fire flue was removed is booked to be fixed next week, and we still need to arrange a load of gravel for the driveway.

But the kids’ end of the house has been ruthlessly decluttered and now looks great. The fifth bedroom/gym now has a bed and a few ornamental bits and pieces, so you can see that even though it is small, it is still big enough to be a bedroom. All that remains is to clean off the porch, do a tip run and clean the windows. Then we will be a quick vacuum, mop and dust away from presentable.

It is a daunting prospect. How long will it take to sell? What if we can’t find what we are looking for and end up homeless with three dogs, sixteen goats and a flock of poultry?

But if I have trusted the universe to give me the message that it is time to move on, I must also trust it to get us to where we are going. I am sure it will be stressful and challenging at times, but I believe it will all work out in the end.

Right now I feel better than I have for a long time. I feel like I have finally found the right path, and that for a while I just have to follow it and see where it leads.